Museums of contemporary art tend to be exclusive landmarks of great capitals. We are used to finding art galleries in the most prominent of locations, either in old palaces, or in purpose-built museum buildings. For the special case of galleries of contemporary art, however, it is also a common policy to provide space at the middle of an out-of-town park, or else into the heart of an urban renewal area, using modern arts as ‘flagships’ of city regeneration. This article strives to show that today's dilemmas and choices about the siting of galleries of art are a legacy of the nineteenth century, recalling the lively controversies concerning the urban setting of the Parisian Musée des Artistes Vivants and its London equivalents. The different national cases are explored, to reveal several distinct models of gallery formation.